One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to look back at my league’s preseason drafts to see how I did. The season still has ten weeks to go, but by now, we have a pretty good book on how our players did this year. If you are like me, you probably reached for a few players, but also took some late round chances on some high upside players. I think it’s cool to see how I made-out in the projection and valuation departments in a preseason that, at this point, now seems like a long time ago. Aside from being fun, this can be a learning experience and can also help me plan for next season’s draft. I’m sure my Yankee homer-ism is going to shine through, but so far, it has been a fairly good season to draft Yankees in the mid to late rounds.
Lets take a look and see if I’ll be patting myself on the back or looking in the mirror and asking, “What were you thinking?” My bet is that, as always, it will be a little of both. My hits, misses & more predictions for 2015 from the AL East & Central:
Michael Pineda, SP, NYY – I Drafted him in the 12th round in two leagues, and while his numbers are not ace-quality, they are far better than 12th round starting pitching. Pineda is 9-6, with an ERA & WHIP of 3.77 & 1.211, averaging a strikeout per inning. It seems as though Pineda has been through a lot, and he has, missing nearly 2 seasons to injury and being traded after a dynamic rookie season. Some may not realize that he is only 26. Earlier this season, I mentioned Pineda as possibly being in the Cy Young discussion this season. While that may have been a bit premature, I think he is one of the keys to the Yanks making any sort of late-season run. The Yanks have a favorable home schedule the rest of the way, and should give him plenty of run-support. That should allow Pineda to rack up another 9 or so wins (maybe that Cy discussion is not too far off). He also posed for this picture with his girlfriend, just to make sure I put him in my next article.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, NYY – I drafted Tex between the 16th & 18th rounds, and he has given me second or third-round production. He leads the AL in RBI, and is tied for fourth in HR. Of his 23 homers, 12 have been solo shots, including his first four of the season. Imagine how many RBI he’d have if there were more ducks on the pond when he came up to the plate. Jacoby Ellsbury’s return from injury atop the lineup along with Brett Gardner should give Tex plenty of opportunity to drive in a few more. We all know he will never hit .300 again, but I can live with a .250 BA if he can anchor the cleanup spot and keep sending runners home. At 35, he still plays slick defense at 1B and has become one of the leaders of the Yankee team.
Alex Rodriguez, DH/3B, NYY – I drafted Alex in the 25th round as a can’t-lose flyer, and he has also given me second or third-round production at a thin 3B position. Regardless of what A-Rod stands for off the field, in fantasy baseball, all that counts are the stats and staying off the DL. Alex has produced on both counts, he’s ninth in the AL with 19 HR and his nearly .400 OBP puts him at seventh in the league in OPS at .898. While other guys were drafting their backup infielders or last relievers, I was snagging a 30 HR bat.
Mark Buehrle, SP, TOR – He went undrafted in most leagues, but has been an extremely productive pitcher in the fantasy realm. For years, I’ve used him as a spot starter in good match-ups, especially in April and May when he has always pitched his best ball. But this season, I just couldn’t bring myself to drop him as he just kept on rattling off quality starts. He now has 10 wins. What is remarkable is this is the 15th season in a row that he was won at least 10 games. Even more remarkable, is that when he hits 200 innings pitched this season, it will be his 15th season in a row for that as well. He has announced this will be his final season, so it’s fitting that it’s one of his best. In fact, his 3.34 ERA is his lowest in ten years, and he’s only topped that twice. He’ll never be in the Hall of Fame, but my fantasy rotation can always use a guy who seldom gets blown out and pitches deep into every game. In leagues that count QS, he has been money this season.
Chris Archer, SP, TB – If you drafted Archer, you are very happy. Enough said. But, what if you drafted him in the 12th round (his ADP in 2015)? If so, you should be down-right jubilant! He’s another pitcher that I have mentioned as being in the Cy Young conversation and he belongs there even more than Pineda. He is 9-7 with 153 K’s (third), 2.73 ERA (eighth) and a 1.019 WHIP (fourth). His 10.874 strikeouts per 9 innings is second in the AL, only Chris Sale is better. He is the main reason the Tampa Rays are still hanging around the AL East leader board.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, TOR – The late-blooming E5 has been in decline ever since his 42nd HR cleared the fence in his breakout 2012. An injury last season seemed to speed that decline, which carried into this season. He has 18 HR and 54 RBI which is good enough for a fantasy 1B, but his .232 BA and .777 OPS are not. I drafted him in the first round in 2015, and that is just not good enough. I can see him dropping to about the 4th round next season, when he’ll be 33. It’s not like me to draft a low-batting average in the first-round. “What was I thinking?”
Michael Brantley, OF, CLE – Many drafted him in the 1st round , assuming he was a stud after an impressive 2014. His ADP was mid 2nd round ,where I took him. He’s having a decent season with 6 HR, 51 RBI, 9 SB and hitting .294. His 26 doubles are second in the AL. But, this is a far-cry from last season, when he batted .327 and nearly finished with 100 runs and RBI. I like to see a player repeat a career-year before I jump in head-first, even second-round was too soon. He is delivering a fifth or sixth-round performance.
Dellin Betances, RP, NYY – I wrote about Dellin in my pre-season relief pitcher rankings , where I named him a top-five reliever and anointed him as the Yankees closer. In one league, the closer run started in the fifth-round, and I was on the tail-end of the run, so I was happy to land him. I drafted him as a closer, but he ended up being the set-up reliever, albeit one of the best. That team of mine is buried in last place, and a fifth-round middle reliever will do that to you. His 135 strikeouts put him ahead of most starting pitchers, and I can’t type small enough to list his ERA & WHIP, but they should take away my “fantasy baseball license” for (A), allowing myself to get sucked into a closer run and (B), drafting a pitcher with ONE career save in the fifth-round. He has two career saves now.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, CHW – His stats from 2014 measured up to Jose Reyes’ 2014 stats for the most part, other than steals (less) and RBI (more). So, while he may not have Reyes pedigree, nor his storied injury history, I was happy to draft Alexei in the 11th round. He’s started to come around of late. But overall, he’s having a miserable season, hitting only .224 with 3 HR and 10 SB. He hit .273, 15, 21 last season when he also had around 80 runs and RBI. Hopefully, his second-half will be better or he’ll end up on the waiver wire with the recently dropped Jimmy Rollins.
Adam Eaton, OF, CHW – I thought this was the season he would put it all together, after batting .300 with 15 SB in 2014. I was tickled to find him still sitting there in the 20th round and scooped him up. I had dropped him by the end of May. He’s hitting .249 with 5 SB and 48 runs and starting to turn things around. Still, that’s not even 20th round production.
On a brighter note: Who’s due for a BIG 2nd half?
Manny Machado, 3B, BAL – Some people were starting to lose patience last season with Machado, after teasing us with a great 2013, but those people may have overlooked that fact that he was only 22-years-old last season. He’s having a fine 2015, and I think the second-half will be even better. I don’t think we have scratched the surface yet of what Manny can do; provided his knees hold up. He is top-ten in the AL in most hitting categories, including BA (.300), OPS (.899) Total Bases (186), Hits (3rd with 105), HR (20) and Steals (13). He is still filling out, so I’m sure more homers are coming in the future.
Jose Abreu, 1B, CHW – One of the things I love about baseball, is the constant adjustments between batters and pitchers. Abreu got off to a slow start in 2015 after bursting on the scene in 2014 from Cuba with 36 homers and a .317 BA. He started slow in 2015, likely because, pitchers learned from last season how to pitch to him. He’s made his adjustments, and is starting to come around, like the rest of the White Sox hitters. I think he’ll have a big second-half. He may not reach last season’s numbers, but a big second-half could get him darn close.
Victor Martinez, DH, DET – V-Mart lost the first half to injury and many forgot about him. I didn’t forget that in 2014, he had his best season; hitting .335 with 32 HR and 103 RBI. He’s picked it up since coming off the DL and with Miggy out for several more weeks, will be looked upon to carry the offense. I see a big second-half helping the Tigers stay in contention until Miggy returns.
Masahiro Tanaka, SP, NYY – I’m the eternal optimist, the guy can flat-out pitch. Unfortunately, we have to cross our fingers every time he does. It seems his month of rest helped him a lot, and I see him and Pineda leading this team right into the post-season.
Aaron Hicks, CF, MIN – Hicks is a five-tool player in the mold of Dexter Fowler. I see him reaching double-digit HR and 20 SB, landing around a .275 BA. That’s what he looked like in the minors, and now has a clear path to playing time with Minnesota’s other CF phenom Byron Buxton out for most of the rest of the season. I think Hicks stays in the lineup when Buxton comes back. We’ve seen five-tool busts before, like Melvin Upton Jr., but I think Hicks has some better batting average insulation and on-base (.400 in minors) ability that should help him stay relevant.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday July 25th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by The Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week we will discuss some pitchers that may be laying around on the wire in some leagues, or undervalued that could make for a nice addition down the stretch.